The campaign so far

After campaigning by Rethink Mental Illness and others, the former Prime Minister Theresa May announced (in late 2017) an Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, which would look at how it's used and how it can be improved.

The Review heard from thousands of people detained under the Act, as well as their carers and loved ones. In December 2018, the Review published its final report, which included around 150 recommendations for change.

We were pleased that Government welcomed the final report and planned to introduce a new mental health bill. But there’s still a long way to go before we get the law changed and funding committed.

In 2019, we called on the Government and MPs across parliament to accept and implement the Review’s recommendations by asking people to sign our petition. Thank you to everyone that signed it - almost 5,000 people. We delivered it to the Prime Minister in the summer of May 2019.

At the end of 2019, following the General Election, the Queen's Speech confirmed the government's commitment to continue work to reform the Mental Health Act. We now await a White Paper setting out plans for improving the rights of people detained under the Mental Health Act.

So watch this space as we continue to hold the government to account. 

Principles of the Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act currently features no principles. The Review recommends adding principles, so overarching values are in place to guide the way the Act is applied to the care and treatment of people detained under it. The principles recommended by the Review are:

Choice and autonomy: people being supported to express what they want and to be heard; patients should understand their rights and their relationships should be respected.

Beneficial purpose: care and treatment should be delivered with a view to ending the need for coercion.

Treating patients as individuals: detention should respect the individual circumstances of the detained person, and consider their protected characteristics.

Least restriction: compulsory powers should be used in the least restrictive and least invasive way possible.

The Review’s key recommendations

  • Replacing  the ‘nearest relative’ role (a family member with particular rights and powers, who is chosen from an inflexible list) with a ‘nominated person’ chosen by the person detained.
  • Giving patients a legal say over their treatment – doctors will only be able to overrule their wishes in certain circumstances.
  • Better oversight of treatment decisions (via independent doctors and tribunals).
  • Extending a right to advocacy to informal inpatients (those who have not been detained under the Mental Health Act but could be threatened with detention).
  • More access to tribunals.
  • Making care planning statutory for people subject to the Mental Health Act.
  • Aiming to substantially reduce the use of Community Treatment Orders. The Review’s recommendations mark a milestone for everyone wishing to improve this important but outdated legislation.

The Reviews recommendations mark a milestone for everyone wishing to improve this important but outdated legislation.

To read final report of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, click here.

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